Lot 128 Lot 128 Lot 128 Lot 128 Lot 128 Lot 129 Lot 129

photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 128 

Lot 128

Lot 128
Treasury7, no. 1694 (‘Garden Delights’)

Ivory and polychrome pigments; with a wide, flaring mouth leaving practically no lip at all and a recessed flat foot surrounded by an indented, protruding flat footrim; carved with a continuous garden scene with two perforated ornamental rocks, one rock with a flowering magnolia tree growing from behind it, the other rock with irises and a small, bare tree growing from behind it, the grass-tufted ground set with a rectangular low table on which a jardinière filled with flowering peonies is placed, with two young women enjoying the scene, each with a leaf-shaped fan; the neck with a band of pendant formalized leaves or petals; with colour added to various elements of the scene; the foot inscribed in seal script, Katon, the interior stained to match the background of the exterior
Katon, Japan, 1854–1930
Height: 5.85 cm
Diameter of outer neck: 1.5 cm
Stopper: turquoise; lapis lazuli collar

Margaret Prescott Wise (no. 565)
Edgar and Roberta Wise (1995)
Robert Kleiner (1996)

Treasury 7, no. 1694

For Katon, see Sale 2, lot 63. This unusual bottle is another demonstration of the range of Katon’s workshop capabilities. As with some of his other works, he is in fact making a miniature vase here rather than a snuff bottle, since the inner neck flares evenly outwards, terminating in no measurable lip at all, the curve being continuous until it meets the outer neck rim. The shape is also taken from a Chinese vase of typical baluster form, and even the detailing of the foot suggests such a vase, since the footrim is set inside the profile of the base of the vase, indented by about a millimetre.

The scene is a typical one of beauties in a garden, although the beauty by the little table seems to be turning to respond to some unpleasantness—could it have come from behind the fan of the demurely posed and elegantly beribboned lady on the other side?—and no children or scholar companions are present, as one would usually see in a Chinese treatment of the topic. We can guess the season to be late spring or early summer, since the magnolia, irises, and peonies would only be blooming together naturally in a garden setting at about this time.

There is an interesting point to be made here about the fans the two women are holding. Katon was one of those Japanese artists who signed his works with a name that seems to make no pretence at being Chinese. He was apparently unconcerned about revealing either his identity, if only by an artistic name, or the origin of his wares. (Whether the dealers who handled his wares passed them on to unwary collectors as Chinese is another matter.) He also produced purely Japanese designs in Japanese style with many of his works. It might be argued that the shapes of the vases he so often copied were Chinese, but Chinese culture had a broad impact on Japanese arts, and nearly all of the standard Chinese ceramic forms were also produced in Japan by the Meiji period, so we have no way of knowing whether Katon, from his perspective, was imitating Chinese originals. In this case, however, the fans offer a clue that his intention was to create a Chinese scene, as he did on several other works. In Japan, where the folding fan was invented, the standard types of fan were either a folding one or a rigid fan resembling a vertical cross section of an inverted pear (the fan known as an uchiwa). The Chinese, on the other hand, when not using the folding fan borrowed from Japan (in an unusual reversal of the usual direction of cultural exchange), had a range of rigid fans, or fans with a rigid central strut and handle. Sometimes these were actually made of feathers fanning out from the handle, but they also derived from leaves plucked from a tree and used as a natural fan, so sometimes the manufactured ones were made to resemble a leaf. It is not obvious from the scene here whether the two women hold actual leaves or leaf-shaped fans, but their identical form and obvious handles suggest the latter. Either would be unusual in Japanese art, though common enough in China. The women’s clothing is typically Chinese, as are the furniture and the setting. Perhaps Katon understood very well that his wares were being passed off as Chinese and accommodated his dealers without losing his identity behind an apocryphal reign mark.

For a related bottle, also of meiping form and coloured, see Sotheby’s, New York, 17 March 1997, lot 129.


This is not the Sotheby’s sale catalogue. This is a product of Hugh Moss for the purposes of this website. For the catalogue details please refer to Sotheby’s website or request a copy of a printed sale catalogue from Sotheby’s


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=1795&exhibition=12&ee_lang=eng


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Hugh Moss |